A big move for the Niabi Zoo

Moving two elephants, which weigh a staggering 17,000 pounds combined, is no easy task.

That’s why Marc Heinzman, the Niabi Zoo Director, planned the move late Sunday night and did not give notice to the public.

“We wanted to do it at a quiet time when the elephants could focus on the task at hand, which is getting on a trailer,” Heinzman said, “and our staff can focus and they don’t have to worry about anything but what the animals are doing.”

So, Sophie and Babe were moved overnight Sunday, October 20, 2013 to their new home at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas.

One of the main factors in deciding to move the elephants to a different zoo was the unpredictable Illinois climate.

Zoo officials said this particular breed of elephants had to be inside when the temperature is below 45 degrees. On days like Tuesday, October 22, when snowflakes are the size of a quarter, the elephants would be cooped up inside.

Heinzman stated that Sophie and Babe usually had to be kept inside six months out of the year due to the weather. In their new home in Little Rock, Arkansas, they should only have to be inside for a few weeks throughout the year.

One of the elephants is overweight and the other has arthritis.

“Weather like this makes their arthritis worse and just makes them have foot problems and that sort of stuff, and that’s just something we weren’t happy with,” said Heinzman.

The Niabi Zoo has sent the elephants to the Little Rock Zoo under a loan. This means that the Niabi Zoo can still control where the elephants go, and can ensure Sophie and Babe stay together.

“We wanted to do that to make sure that we keep control of what happens to them,” said Heinzman.

It’s obvious around the Quad Cities that Sophie and Babe were a big part of the community.  They weren’t just on display at a zoo, they were special members of the Quad Cities.


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